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Even with the victory, Notre Dame reframed its big picture

Even with the victory, Notre Dame reframed its big picture

No. 20 Notre Dame’s newfound equity fell apart Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore for a 1-week-old upset, an equally disturbing thought punctuated by an embarrassingly narrow Irish escape.

Navy’s second-half defense left a blueprint for future ND opponents, Boston College and USC, to ponder, if not steal outright.

“We have to go back and look and see exactly what happened,” the Irish coach Marcus Freeman A 35-13 halftime rally was followed by a 35-32 white knuckler. “And because of what happened in the second half, somehow we’re convinced, somehow, we’re good.”

The first-year Irish head coach deserves credit for his postgame poise and spin cycles following one of the worst halves of Irish football in recent memory. But it was never meant to be.

First, here’s what the second half looks like numerically:

Twelve total yards on offense. Minus-23 rushing yards. A 0.9-yard average per play. Five sacks have been handed over. An interception is called on a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage. One third-down conversion on six attempts. Overall the Irish were outscored 19-0 and were flagged for six penalties for 49 yards after halftime.

It wasn’t until Matt Salerno The Mids (3-7) ran out of chutzpah when Navy fumbled on an onside kick with 81 seconds left.

The Notre Dame coaching staff’s inability to make clear adjustments to the game was beyond perplexing a week after running a top-five team at Clemson out of Notre Dame Stadium for three touchdowns.

The fact that the Irish (7-3) extended the nation’s longest active November winning streak to 18 games and kept their bowl chances from getting bogged down by some less-than-attractive options hasn’t, for now, allayed the big-picture concerns. Exhumed on Saturday after a week of burial.

The next step in the program’s post-Brian Kelly evolution needs to be continuity. Irish quarterback Dry pine Saturday was a picture of how far the Irish have come from that.

In the first half, Pine was ND’s all-time best, with five touchdowns — four on bye passes and a nifty 11-yard scramble. He was 14-of-16 for 234 yards against the nation’s No. 122 pass-efficiency defense and exceeded his passing yardage in his last two games, Clemson and Syracuse, combined.

In the second half, Navy turned up the pressure on the passing downs and sold out on the run.

The combination of offensive coordinators that helped the Irish make that strategy a success Tommy Rees overly conservative play-calling, Pine’s lack of awareness to get the ball out quickly when needed and Freeman’s inability to apply a head-coaching tourniquet.

“They were zero-pressure on almost every play,” Freeman said. “What does that mean? It means they’re bringing everybody and playing zero coverage without help in the middle of the field. And we have to be able to find ways to attack that.

“We did in the first half. We hit some balls. We were able to check some things when we saw it coming, but we couldn’t beat the zero pressure in the second half. And that’s something we have to improve because other teams are going to do it.

“People are seeing they have been somewhat successful in bringing all-out pressure. And all you have to do is make the defense pay in the pass game.”

Oddly enough, Navy, 129th out of 131 nationally in passing offense and 108th in pass efficiency, made the Irish pay with their own passing game. And the Mids were able to do so with a QB in late in the fourth quarter Maasai Mayor who was the Navy’s third stringer in late October.

Meyer was 4-of-7 for 51 yards and a 20-yard TD pass Michael Haywood With 1:21 left after an injured reliever Xavier Earline. QB1 flood tide Was lost for the season two weeks ago with a knee injury.

Navy coach Ken PneumatoloMeanwhile, the Irish won his chess game of X’s and O’s with the defensive coordinator Al Golden Late in the game the Mids found much of the running room when the Irish went to their pass “defensive resistance”. And when the Irish deployed its staff to shut down the triple option, the Navy went into the air.

“Again, you don’t want to be able to let teams down the field,” Freeman said. “But at that point, you’re up 10 or 11 points and you say, ‘OK, we know it’s a two-score game. And so let’s be smart and not give up an easy, big play — the pass — and make them earn every inch and keep the clock (running) because they ran out of time.’ That’s what happened.”

Notre Dame played without two of its brightest defensive stars — linebackers JD Bertrand (groin) and safety Brandon Joseph (ankle) — and safety Xavier Watts Had the opportunity to record a career-high eight tackles in his first college start.

He and Grad are senior wide receivers Braden Lenzi Two of the several bright spots in what happened after halftime were obscured.

Special teams also continued to shine. By Jack Kiser The blocked punt, ND’s seventh in the nation, set up a 37-yard TD strike from Pine to wide receiver. Jayden Thomas In the next play. With 1:10 left in the first half, the Irish would score one last time.

Pyne was a mix of philosophical and protestant after the game, perhaps a fitting response given the extreme highs and lows of the season.

“I’m the same every week,” Pyne insisted. “I do the same program every week. I learn from it, I get better. I mean, that’s how I work. This is how I live.

“I’m going to take this game — and I’m sure I made mistakes in the first half as well. I am not perfect. I will learn from it and keep getting better. I am all that. And that’s what I’ll do.”

For Freeman, his biggest decisions and learning moments about the program’s long-term trajectory will unfold in the offseason. Not the least of which is what the quarterback position looks like in 2023.

But Boston College and USC are still very important this season. How the Irish are perceived, especially by employers, is very important going into December.

Notre Dame is actually a significantly better team than it was in September. Now it’s time to prove it.

NOTRE DAME 35, NAVY 32: Full box score


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